In a seminar last week staff from the Child Care Office gave an update on family and work issues at MIT since the Ad Hoc Committee on Family and Work published its final report, with 28 recommendations, two years ago.
"There has been no official response to the Committee's recommendations, but a number of changes have been made either directly or indirectly as a result of work and family issues being felt on campus," said Kathy Simons, administrator of the Child Care Resource and Referral Service in the Child Care Office.
Prime among them, she said, is "MIT's commitment to establishing a council to oversee work and family programs." Such a council was one of the recommendations of the Committee on Family and Work. Stephen Fairfield, administrator of the Office of Special Community Services and the person who will become staff to the council, reported that the administration is currently discussing who might chair it. "I'm confident we'll get closure on that before the end of the term," he said.
Mr. Fairfield and Ms. Simons encouraged members of the community to write Vice President Constantine Simonides with suggestions for the council chair and for other members of the council, which will include representatives from the faculty, postdocs, research staff, graduate students, service staff, administrative staff, and support staff.
Other developments regarding the Committee's recommendations were also reported. For example, the Committee recommended that MIT offer a program to assist and train supervisors in administering flexibility. Last October Margaret Ann Gray joined the Personnel Office in the new position of training and development coordinator.
"She expects and anticipates that she will respond to work and family issues in the types of training she does here at MIT," said Rae Simpson, administrator of Parenting Programs through the Child Care Office.
Ms. Simons noted that "some of the Committee's recommendations focused on making informal policies on flexibility more explicit." To that end, she said, the Positions Available listings in MIT Tech Talk are now divided into full-time and part-time sections, which "encourages people to think along those lines." Further, job requisition forms now ask MIT employers to note whether the job could provide flexible hours, shift work, or job sharing.
The Committee also recommended that MIT adopt a broader definition of family in administering privileges, services and benefits. Ms. Simons reported that Married Student Housing has been renamed Family Housing, and Family Housing is defined as students and their immediate family (partner and/or children).
Further, in the February 26, 1992 issue of MIT Tech Talk the Employee Perspectives page of Positions Available listed all MIT services and activities available to domestic partners. These include library and athletic cards.
Ms. Simons noted that the Working Group on Support Staff Issues has formed a task group on domestic partners and is currently drafting recommendations on extending long-term benefits, specifically medical and dental, to such partners. For more information, call task group leaders Lisa Bartolet (x3-0420) and Paul Rivenberg (x3-8101).
Ms. Simons and Ms. Simpson also gave updates on other departments and offices around MIT involved in work and family issues. For example, in the Medical Department, Social Worker Dawn Metcalf's consultations "have become increasingly focused around elder care issues," Ms. Simpson reported. Ms. Metcalf's clients include both people with elderly relatives and people who are concerned about their own retirement.
In the Child Care Office, "the volume of resource/referrals on child care issues has nearly doubled over the last two years," Ms. Simons said. The office has developed a number of new programs and information packets to meet that need, and is collaborating with the City of Cambridge, Harvard, and Lesley College to "tackle child care supply and quality problems."
Ms. Simons also noted that the Technology Children's Center, Inc., is "actively exploring infant and toddler child care, which doesn't exist on campus right now."
Parenting issues "have become a parallel part of the Child Care Office," Ms. Simpson said. She reported "enormous growth there, in the sheer number of programs, in the number of consultations (problem solving, not counseling), and in the diversity of [clients]." For example, the office is working on issues including gay and lesbian parenting, special needs children, giftedness, and parenting adult children after they leave high school.
Both Ms. Simpson and Ms. Simons stressed that the Child Care Office is a resource for all members of the MIT community. "We have a library, and ongoing support groups," Ms. Simpson said. "We encourage people who are feeling stuck to come to us to brainstorm about their situation."
In concluding her comments on work and family issues, Ms. Simons reminded that "this is a huge topic that will not become less urgent-it will become more urgent."
A version of this article appeared in the April 15, 1992 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 36, Number 27).